I live in Northern Colorado, and as many of you know, this place has more microbreweries within its border than any other state in the union. Having moved here from Indiana, where a 24-pack of Natural Light was all we could afford as grad students, Colorado truly did feel like the Promised Land to me and my husband when we moved here seven years ago. Actually, it still does.
If you ask five different people to name their favorite local beers, you will most likely get five pretty different answers—the privilege of having so many choices. But I, as your humble servant, have seriously dedicated myself to the craft of sampling and reviewing beers for you, the public, over these six years (it was hard work), and here are my humble offerings:
Let’s deal with the elephant in the room first –Fort Collins. FoCo has four well-establish, regularly visited breweries in Old Town alone, and they all have their local followers. New Belgium (http://www.newbelgium.com/) has such a great business model—totally wind-powered brewery, perks like free bikes and trips to Belgium for loyal employees, and a hip, perky set of twenty-somethings taking you on tour and tell you all the ways in which you should love them. But for all that, I don’t think too many of their beers are really all that special. Fat Tire, ubiquitous in the taps of hip bars all over the RM West, is an inoffensive but forgettable lager, their wheat beers are socially appropriate for summer but again, not distinctive, and then they sometimes just get downright weird with the medieval Belgian recipes and sour, barrel-aged swill. They make a respectable porter called 1554 and a downright tastey Frambozen (limited edition from October through January only), but if I wasn’t able to drink up to the equivalent of two free pints in their tasting room, I honestly wouldn’t bother.
Coopersmith’s (www.coopersmithspub.com/) is a brewpub, so no tours here. That’s fine—I do get a little tired of being told how beer is born over and over again. My favorite offering is Sigda’s Green Chili beer, but it does get rather spicy and vegetal in flavor. I love it, but it’s strong stuff. The Horsetooth Stout, named after the local reservoir, is a creamier, richer version of Guinness with chocolate undertones, and around Christmastime, the Jingle Ale, rich in clove and other spices, is both savory and sweet. They have others which are equally deserving of mention; generally, if you have a favorite kind of beer, with the exception of an India Pale Ale, Coopersmith’s makes a great version that will keep you happy.
I avoided this for years, thinking I was above such populist beers, but the Budweiser (http://www.budweisertours.com/) center on the south side of town really does give a good tour and a lot of free samples. It’s a good place to bring visitors who don’t want to get too experimental with their beers. And beyond the usual swill sold at sporting events, they have some decent lagers and wheat beers.